Guan Ning Neglected the Gold in the Rice Paddy
(Clearwisdom.net) Guan Ning and Hua Xin were classmates during the period of the Three Kingdoms (220-280 A.D.). They studied and farmed together. One day while Guan Ning was hoeing the rice paddy, he hit upon a rock that turned out to be a gold nugget. He threw the gold out of the rice paddy and continued hoeing. Hua Xin saw Guan Ning throwing away the gold nugget and picked it up. He held the gold nugget in his hands and examined it from all angles and then looked at his classmate for a long time before he too decided to throw the nugget back to the field.
What is the difference between Guan Ning and Hua Xin? Guan Ning truly regarded himself as a cultivator. He provided for himself by farming. He was very content with a life as a farmer. At the same time, he also treated farming as part of his cultivation practice and welcomed the hardship of farming as joy. He led a lifestyle that was once described by the greatest Chinese pastoral poet, Tao Yuanming: "Picking up the chrysanthemum at the foot of the eastern fence, which lends a beautiful view of Mount Zhongnan." If it had been an everyday person who came upon a large gold nugget during farming, he would be more than likely to think, "Oh, how wonderful. Goodbye, farming. Comfortable life, here I come." However, one would have to trade a lot of virtue (de) with the piece of gold that one did not work for. Besides, the comfortable life would reinforce one's attachment to comfort, which a cultivator is supposed to eliminate.
Hua Xin, on the other hand, went for the gold nugget as soon as he spotted it. Then he suddenly remembered, "Why did Guan Ning toss aside the gold nugget? Surely everyone can see it is a piece of gold." Then he immediately realized that Guan Ning didn't have any attachment to wealth and that there was a great disparity between the two of them. He felt ashamed of himself and finally decided to part with the gold nugget in front of Guan Ning.
A lot of today's Chinese people do not approve of Falun Gong practitioners because Falun Gong practitioners are content with what they have and do not spend as much time pursuing more wealth. They will typically say to Falun Gong practitioners, "Stop doing that volunteer work to rescue Falun Gong practitioners in China. Carpe diem! Earn as much as money while you can!" According to these people, it is as if every practitioner will starve if he were not a workaholic. The truth is that not every Falun Gong practitioner has difficulty making ends meet. On the contrary, the majority of Falun Gong practitioners outside of China are in the middle class at least. A lot of Falun Gong practitioners have wonderful careers and good pay. Falun Gong practitioners in North America are mostly high-tech professionals and the cream of the crop in their respective professions. To a lot of people, especially Europeans, a person whose biggest ambition is to "earn as much as money as possible" is no more than a man who has no life and is using work as an excuse to justify his lack of life outside work. Every time I hear such a comment, I reply, "Do you really think consuming is the meaning of life?"
"One should return to one's original, true self; this is the real purpose of being human." (From "Genuinely Guiding People Toward High Levels" in Lecture One of Zhuan Falun.)
Tao Yuanming wrote in one of his poems, "My teacher has taught me, 'I should worry about if I have attained the Tao instead of worrying about if I have enough money.'"
"We say that when you take a step back in a conflict, you will find the seas and the skies boundless, and it will certainly be another situation." (From "Enlightenment" in Lecture Nine of Zhuan Falun.)
Today's people are completely lost in conventional notions. If only they could take a step back and reflect upon their lifestyle, perhaps they would find an alternative lifestyle with the seas and the skies boundless beyond the endless pursuit of wealth.
First published in English at http://www.pureinsight.org/pi/articles/2005/5/30/3017p.html